If you’re like me you’ve heard the maxim “The truth will set you free” many times but it was only when I decided to research where it comes that I discovered it’s a quote from the bible.
The only relevance of that piece of information is that when we know the source of something; whether it is a piece of information, food, paper and any other product you care to imagine it has an effect on what we think about the product or the information.
What we are looking at or thinking about is impacted upon by what we know to be true about it.
This is hugely important when it comes to telling the truth because what we know about the source affects what we hold to be true and therefore what we say.
If you are like me you were brought up to tell the truth and my truth is that telling the truth has got me into trouble far more often than it has set me free.
The first time was when I was away at a management conference. The managing director of the company had taken his senior team away for a weekend to think strategically about the business. At the end of the first day he said he wouldn’t be at dinner in evening so we could talk freely about the things that concerned us. The next day at we reconvened this time with the M.D. present.
He asked what we’d talked about the night before.
There was silence around the table no one wanted to raise the subject because what had been discussed was the MD’s approach management which was a cause of frustration to about three quarters of the team. I have to say that my own position of this was; whilst I had my occasional frustrations with him by and large I thought he was ok.
However I couldn’t bear the hypocrisy of my co-workers and so I was the one to break the silence and offer up the topic of conversation from the dinner table.
There were two consequences to this. Firstly all those who had been previously quiet now felt free to unload and this was fine but the second was to have far reaching consequences for me personally.
The MD thought I was the source of the criticism of his management style. It would taint our relationship from that point on.
In some ways the truth had set me free, it had freed me from the prospect of further progress in the company.
The Truth Will Always Come Out
The second time was when I was running a gastro pub with my now-ex.
It was a beautiful old pub set in the countryside and we were winning a great reputation for our food.
It was a Saturday morning and the chef told me we had run out of sausages and that our butcher who made them for us couldn’t get us any more till Monday.
I was absolutely furious that one of our favourite items on the menu wouldn’t be available for the weekend so I nipped out to the local supermarket and bought enough of their top range high meat content sausages to get us by.
It was about half way through the lunchtime service and one of the waitresses came up to me and said that a customer really liked the sausages and wanted to know where we got them from.
Now I was caught, should I tell the truth or should I lie. Our reputation was built on using good local suppliers. I was in an agony of what to do. I went upstairs and was pacing up and down caught in a total quandary but I opted to tell the truth.
The customer looked at me with contempt and wished me luck in running the business.
In hindsight I should have the strength of mind to knock the sausages off the menu but another truth was that we needed the money coming in and when I decided to buy the sausages I was weighing up the potential loss and not thinking about being caught out.
It was a truth that was ultimately to set me free from the restaurant business.
The Truth Hurts
A couple of years after the sausage debacle it was my marriage that was on the rocks and during a particularly emotional discussion she asked me why I had treated her the way I had.
The thing is I knew what she meant. It wasn’t that I’d set out to treat her badly but I knew that in those difficult moments that all marriages go through I had hurt her but I couldn’t explain why.
Over the next few weeks I went into a state of deep reflection. I didn’t want to lose my wife and I knew I owed it to her to answer her question.
In a moment of insight the answer came to me and suddenly everything made sense and I could explain things. I had discovered the truth.
In my excitement to tell her; after all this would reassure her that I was trying to see things from her point of view and understand her, I told her of my insight.
To my shock she dissolved into a state of distraught tears. Instead of reassuring her my “truth” had confirmed her worst fears and set her hard on a course to end the marriage.
The truth was to set me free again but not in any way I wanted.
“You can’t handle the truth”
Fans of Tom Cruise might recognise the line above from the film A Few Good Men.
It was a few days ago and I made a mistake in an email sent to someone who likes the work I do. What followed was a short series of email exchanges between us in which I admitted my mistake, apologised for it and literally asked to be forgiven.
But that was not to happen. The person involved seemed to be very angry and un-placatable.
The truth is I am human. I get things wrong and I make mistakes. About the only thing I have in my favour is that I don’t try to hide from them.
I am reminded of this quote about truth:
“Some people think that the truth can be hidden with a little cover-up and decoration. But as time goes by, what is true is revealed, and what is fake fades away.” Ismail Haniyeh